David Krom – Woodhouse Spa
Visual amenities have to be seen as part of the relaxing and rejuvenating experience one expects from Woodhouse Spa. So emphasizes its director of construction, David Krom, who’s quick to add how necessary it is to stay ahead of consumer preferences.
Krom found that not quite the case when he joined the team in October 2020, noting how the French provincial design seemed outdated with its blend of polished rustic and Parisian elegance. A more modern appearance overdue, he and his team partnered with Randi Lawrence and Kele Jeffery of Interior Architects to refashion the design.
“The old design didn’t look bad, but it was tired,” Krom tells Blueprint in June while shuffling among the many locations where a Woodhouse Spa is either being planned, built or updated. “The design was relatively unchanged since the brand started, and we’ve since modified it to be elegant but simple.”
It’s less artsy with fewer paintings on the walls. Heavy wood trim and wall sconces have been removed and more textures introduced. This is archived by tile, drapery, indirect lighting, wallpaper and ceiling beams in specific areas, everything intended to keep a client’s eyes moving throughout the journey.
Exterior gas lanterns have given way to modern electric sconces flanking the double doors. The retail section has been moved into its own area and the spa is less cluttered and focused more on the guest journey—a constant feel of motion that stimulates the senses the way a therapist stimulates the body with a massage, waxing, facial or manicure, Krom says.
Then there’s the exterior, for which Krom has ideas he hopes will correspond with what a landlord allows. The prototype for the new design was the Woodhouse Spa in Atlanta’s hip Buckhead neighborhood, and he’d like for many more. Here, a white metal awning hangs over an entrance door surrounded by 13 windows and the company name above in block letters affixed to wood-like cement panels.
And onward Krom pushes, with spas under construction in Charlotte, North Carolina; Grand View, Ohio; Peachtree and Savannah, Georgia, and others in the planning stages in Arkansas, Minnesota, Texas and Missouri. There now being spas in 13 states, he’s intent on at least one in all 50, though that’ll entail overcoming logistical problems affecting builders everywhere.
He’s built to build
A 20-year veteran of retail construction, Krom’s spent the past six on the owner’s side with Woodhouse Spa but isn’t that far removed from what general contractors have been up against. Talented young tradespeople are at a premium, and the shortage aggravated since COVID-19’s onset in 2020. Labor costs have soared, supply chains strained, and projects that took 12 weeks are now often pushed to 16.
“That’s had us vetting our GCs,” he says. “If they have a healthy pool of subcontractors and solid financials, they’re more likely to perform to our expectations.”
As far as the cost of goods are concerned, there’s not always much opportunity to sacrifice when the company’s services are high-end. Whereas the spas aren’t marketed as ultra-luxury, they still cater to a mostly upper-class and female clientele that’s coming to be pampered in a classy environment.
Through creativity and resourcefulness, Krom says he’s gotten construction costs to a manageable but still generous $240 per square foot. A new in-house millworks operation ensures consistency and he’s implemented Procore Technology’s construction management software, which he credits for precise tracking of details and communication.
For siting, Krom lauds the contributions of Ken Ahern, the analytics guy, and Dan Ogiba, vice president of real estate. Ahern runs the software to gauge markets for customer saturation, and while Woodhouse Spa generally avoids malls, it made a notable exception with an opening at Houston Galleria, an upscale mixed-use urban development and shopping center.
While that spa is thriving, Krom says he’s more excited about mixed-use buildings and strip centers ideally anchored by a Whole Foods Market.
“Their customers are our customers,” he says.
Woodhouse says he’s set up for success with the leadership team led by Chief Operating Officer Susan Hern and her vision of approachable luxury. She has brought in such talents as Melissa Wilson, the director of education, to create menu protocols and educational tools for the therapists. Then there’s Sarah Moore who, as vice president of marketing and brand, has expanded brand awareness, and Felicia Sanders, the new vice president of operations. Amy Roberts manages spa openings and has developed a comprehensive program for owner orientation.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Krom says he always was comfortable with his hands, and benefited from working with his older brother Robert, who’s also in the industry. The younger Krom worked construction while studying business and marketing at William Paterson University and planned to work in advertising upon his 2001 graduation.
“I’m happy that’s not where I landed,” he says. “Advertising used to be about creativity but now it’s all about algorithms.”
There is, however, much creativity in construction, and Krom says Woodhouse Spa has proven his best outlet for it. But he honed his skills at many other places, managing retail, restaurant and office construction and maintenance at Pioneer Properties from 2002 to 2007, and then taking his skillset to eight other companies before joining Woodhouse Spa in October 2020. Four months later, the company was bought by Radiance Holdings, reuniting Krom with Hern, whom he had worked with while serving as project manager at L’Occitane en Provence in New York.
He was one of the first to join Woodhouse under Radiance’s ownership, and a few years later it seems to have been a prudent move.
“For a while it was like we were building the plane while on the runway,” Krom says about the early days when the company agreed an upgrade was necessary but hadn’t finalized the strategy.
They’ve come a long way since, and Krom is a man on the move, saying “so long” to his family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, every other week and bound elsewhere for an up-close look at a Woodhouse Spa that’s either being built or upgraded.
“One of the things I love about this job is it’s tangible,” Krom says. “We start with a drawing, a plan and empty space and by the time it’s done, I can see, touch and smell it. It’s real and it’s there.”
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